Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us

Diary: As war in Ukraine looms, Johnson is out in the cold

With Boris Johnson persona non grata in Europe, defence secretary Ben Wallace is minding the international store

Russian president Vladimir Putin. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS/PA. - Credit: Tass/PA Images.

With Russian brigades poised to invade Ukraine, Boris Johnson ought to be in the vanguard of diplomatic efforts to resolve the most serious security crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold war.

And yet, according to a senior European diplomat, Johnson has been marginalised because no EU leader has any desire to talk to him. The reason is not “Partygate” distraction but that all trust has been destroyed during the fraught Brexit negotiations, especially over the Northern Ireland protocol, says the diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.

The marginalisation of the prime minister is all the more extraordinary because the UK has decided to actively arm Ukrainian government forces with short-range anti-tank missiles to defend against a potential Russian invasion. Around 30 British trainers have also been dispatched to Ukraine, joining a small number of troops already on the ground.

Fortunately, somebody substantial is minding the store in the absence of Johnson, preoccupied by his own fight for survival as leader of the Tory party. Step forward Ben Wallace, defence secretary.

Wallace wrote a best-in-class blog setting out the stakes in the Ukraine crisis and destroying the “straw man” arguments put forward by President Putin for his military brinkmanship and threats against NATO.

“It is not the disposition of NATO forces but the appeal of its values that actually threatens the Kremlin. Just as we know that its actions are really about what President Putin’s interpretation of history is and his unfinished ambitions for Ukraine.

“We know that because last summer he published, via the official Government website, his own article “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. I urge you to read it, if you have time, because while it is comprehensive on his arguments it is short on accuracy and long on contradictions.

“We should all worry because what flows from the pen of President Putin himself is a seven-thousand-word essay that puts ethnonationalism at the heart of his ambitions. It provides the skewed and selective reasoning to justify, at best, the subjugation of Ukraine and at worst the forced unification of that sovereign country.

President Putin’s article “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians” completely ignores the wishes of the citizens of Ukraine, while evoking that same type of ethnonationalism which played out across Europe for centuries and still has the potential to awaken the same destructive forces of ancient hatred.”

Wallace writes very well, in stark contrast to the vapid tweets emanating from Liz Truss, foreign secretary. This week, she chose to travel Down Under to Australia to escape the Westminster chaos, highlighting the difference between a party and a work event – and perhaps even plotting her own campaign to succeed Johnson.

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us